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“Listening to Arran”, or “Us humans are very noisy you know”

Approaching the Isle of Arran

Approaching the Isle of Arran

Yesterday Nita and I spent five hours over on the Isle of Arran.  We weren’t up in the snow covered hills, or enjoying the wilds of Glen Rosa or Sannox however, instead we simply took our time wandering along the shore-line from the ferry to Brodick Castle gardens and back.  Now then, I know I haven’t been getting out walking much this last few months, but even I’m not that unfit that it takes me five hours to walk this relatively short distance!

If you follow my Face Book page, (Keith Salmon – Scottish Landscape Artist) you’ll have seen that I’ve been pondering over how I might develop my work if the little bit of sight I currently have, deteriorates.   Apart from the obvious solution, to return to making sculpture, I have over the last couple of years been thinking about the possibilities of using sound in some way to compliment the paintings and drawings.

You’ll remember that when I created the big Glen Rosa drawing last month, I had arranged for a time lapse camera to be fitted to record each days work.  This was done by Graham Byron and his team at Model X Media and as Graham is the sound engineer at the Harbour Arts Centre, Nita suggested to me that I ask him for advice about how I might create outdoor sound recordings.  I spent some time explaining what I was thinking of trying to do and he very kindly offered to lend me some recording equipment and show me how to use it.

So then, the purpose of yesterday’s leisurely stroll around Brodick Bay to the castle and back was for me to tryout the small recorder Graham lent me.  I’d already tried it out a couple of times along the harbour side here in Irvine and so had, I thought, a rough idea of which buttons to press.  Well, it wasn’t quite that easy. When you can’t read the screen and are basically a bit of a technology dork…. even four buttons can be a bit confusing when you’re out there in the field!!  My first attempt at recording some sound, (at the point where the path crosses a wee bridge very close to the sea shore) was a bit of an epic.  Needless to say I couldn’t get the recorder to work!  Nita came to the rescue and pointed out that the batteries were flat.  After that, with a new set of batteries, I was off and running …or stumbling.  I thought it would be nice to record the twin sounds of the waves breaking on the shore to my right and the water slopping around in the stream to my left.  Simple…..only I’d forgotten that the path over the bridge was a popular one and after just a few seconds of recording, a small school party on bicycles trundled by. Not too bad you’d have thought, only that one of the children fell off their bike, (luckily no damage done) but there was much kafuffle.  It was amazing ….the wee microphone caught it all!

We continued along the shore with me stopping regularly to record some more sounds.  After two or three attempts I was fairly confident that I was pushing the right buttons and I started to think more about the sounds around me and how I might use them with my work.  The microphone was really quite sensitive and picked up a very broad range of sounds ….giving great depth to the recordings.  Of course, I found that there was a huge amount of “noise pollution”, (not all of it made by me I hasten to add).  However, at one point in the grounds of Brodick castle I thought I’d try record the sound of a very small stream of water that was trickling over some rocks.  No sooner had I started the recording than a fishing boat out in the bay, fired up its marine diesel, a vehicle came along the road behind us and a plane flew overhead on its way to Prestwick airport …..and I started swearing! We humans are very noisy!   Of course though, it didn’t matter.  I was just out to see what the machine would do and what kind of problems I might encounter ….it was all good fun.

A fuzzy Beinn Nuis ....I think!

A fuzzy Beinn Nuis ….I think!

On our return to the ferry, I’d made about 20 short recordings and the whole process had started to make me think about my work in a slightly different way.  I still haven’t a clue how I might use sound in my work, but I’m very excited after this first day out with the recorder.  I think there are a lot of possibilities.  I now have to ask Graham to show me the next step, of downloading the recordings onto my PC and how to edit them.  This blog is therefore; very silent ….but watch out, future blogs could get very noisy!